The result of the MindMixer civic engagement structure was a deeper discussion and "five to 10 times more engagement than we expected," Crowley said. "I've enrolled a number of other MOOC courses to see what works well, and our students are by far the most engaged in discussion [compared to other] courses I've participated in."
The instructors tried to estimate how many "engagement points" students were likely to earn in a week through the MindMixer gamification system, making those points redeemable in a "rewards store" where rewards included things like a one-on-one Skype session with Crowley. But it turned out their estimates were way too low. "The rewards store sold out in a day," she said.
MindMixer CEO Nick Bowden said he is interested in MOOC environments as a potential additional market for his software. High engagement is "one of the missing components in MOOCs" and one MindMixer was able to supply in this case as "an engagement sidecar to Coursera."
MindMixer is designed to allow city planners to solicit ideas for specific urban challenges and identify those worthy of taking action on. It also includes a photo sharing feature, which, in the context of the course, was used to solicit ideas about technological adoption in a city, with photos of instances of those ideas being put into practice. "It's a platform for broadening discussion of good ideas," Bowden said.
MindMixer worked with the Coursera engineers on the integration, but the service did not actually replace the Coursera discussion boards. Instead, the integration was at the level of single sign-on, allowing students to sign into the MindMixer service with their Coursera accounts. Crowley said the class still used the Coursera discussion board for technical support issues with the course, but students were directed to click through to the MindMixer app for the course's more topical discussions.